Recently, my high school teens and I discussed God’s gender.

During this discussion, small groups made a list of God’s characteristics and classified them as masculine, feminine, or gender neutral. As we did this, my husband and I, who were leading separate small groups, both found ourselves explaining our classifications using examples from our marriage. 

Afterward, my husband commented how surprised he was by what teens had noticed about our relationship with one another.

For example, one student commented on my tendency to nag my husband over stuff related to our darling cat.

Now, I like to think that what teens notice about my marriage is how awesome it is; How it’s based on mutuality, a relationship in which we both willingly serve one another out of love and respect; How we encourage, challenge, and affirm one another; And how we are the best of friends.

And don’t get me wrong. Maybe youth do notice those things.

But during this recent conversation, it became crystal clear to both my husband and I that teens also notice other – much less flattering – things about our marriage as well.

At first, I felt a bit of shame regarding this.

After all, many of my teens come from broken homes.

Knowing this, I desperately want to model healthy marriage to them. I want teens to see and understand that not all marriages end in disaster.

And that’s when I realized: That’s precisely why it’s good that youth see not just the beautiful parts of my marriage, but the less flattering ones as well.

After all, what I want to model to youth is a healthy marriage; Not a perfect one.

Because let’s face it. As anyone who’s been married longer than about 24 hours knows, no marriage is perfect.

Marriages are filled with both beautiful moments as well as – let’s just say – less than beautiful moments like those when I nag my husband or when he lashes out at me in frustration.

Healthy marriages aren’t conflict free. Instead, in healthy marriages, both parties are committed to working through conflict because they know that even though doing so is sometimes painful, it’s well worth it.

Maybe that is actually the part of marriage that teens – especially those who come from broken homes – most need to see.

Maybe what teens need to see isn’t another couple pretending to have it all together, but instead, a real-life couple who occasionally fights but then works together to resolve the conflict.

Maybe if teens saw us model that they’d begin to understand that conflict doesn’t always mean a lack of love; That it doesn’t always result in divorce.

So friends, may we have the courage to let our teens see not perfect marriages – but real, messy authentic ones rooted in the love of Christ.